A few weeks back, Donald Trump had a man thrown out of a rally for complaining that it was boring. I laughed at the time; life imitates The Onion, I thought. As it turns out, the man was part of a duo of comedians. Still, I think we may look back on that moment as the beginning of the end for The Donald. His campaign has proved immune to outrage, but boredom? That’s deadly.
Trump’s shtick is getting old, even for his supporters. He knows it too, but by toning it down, he may have initiated a death spiral. A tamer Trump leaves just the emptiness of his ideas, which only gain traction when coarsely shouted at a susceptible audience. When spoken in measured tones, they’re…boring.
So where does he go when his numbers start to slip? He can go back to outrageous, but that’s already worn out. Or he can stay the gentler course and fade into irrelevance.
Trump took the playbook of a rising dictator: exploit fear, invent scapegoats, and sell it all with bombast. But this isn’t 1939. Modern media will take anything to a saturation point much faster than the newspapers, placards and radio broadcasts of three generations ago.
It’s comforting to see signs that the old tactics are failing, but still scary that so many people – including some Christians – embraced a toxic message. Let’s hope a savvier successor to The Donald doesn’t emerge, able to feed that message into the communication channels of our time.